Friday 5 March 2021 12:01 am

Decline in fashion sales slows as online shoppers prepare for lockdown lifting

The decline in fashion retail sales slowed last month as online shoppers snapped up outfits for the end of the coronavirus lockdown.

Total like-for-like sales -including the impact of closed non-essential stores – declined 3.1 per cent in February but fashion and homeware helped drive online sales up 167.3 per cent to a record high.

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Fashion like-for-like sales shrank 3.6 per cent, marking its twelfth month of decline, according to the latest research by accountancy firm BDO.

But the sub-sector recorded its best performance within that period having enjoyed two weeks of growth in mid-February.

Experts said the improved result could be due to hopes that lockdown will end in the coming months, with the government’s plan to lift restrictions announced on 22 February.

“Obviously, there is still a long road ahead but with shops looking at reopening there were a few positive signs this month,” Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said.

“Consumer confidence improved slightly, probably thanks to the vaccine roll-out, and the fashion sector had its best result in months as shoppers eyed the end of lockdown.

“Retailers will have welcomed a number of this week’s Budget measures, notably the announcement of further business rates relief, restart grants and loans and the extension to the furlough scheme. 

Read more: Budget 2021: Hospitality and retail firms to get £5bn of ‘restart’ grants

“A key part of driving forward the UK’s economic recovery is likely to come from unlocking consumer spending. To enable this, the retail sector needs to reopen successfully and quickly and the government’s continued support will be vital to making this happen.”

Meanwhile, separate research by Springboard showed that retail footfall plunged 73.5 per cent last month, with only a 3.4 percentage point improvement from January.

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